Tag: Fox

The Shape of Water Review: Making A Monster Movie Romance 1

The Shape of Water Review: Making A Monster Movie Romance

Guillermo Del Toro used to save his arty genre movies for his subtitled productions and make pure genre nonsense in Hollywood. That split is over. The Mexican maestro’s latest American production is one of his most complex and moving outings to date. Of course, it does have a monster in it—that’s just how Del Toro rolls. It’s a magnificent monster as well, in many ways his take on the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s also spliced with the fairy tale romanticism of Amelie, cold war paranoia, empathetic identity politics, and some of the most beautiful filmmaking to hit screens this year. It’s a remarkable work from a remarkable artist and hopefully it does well enough for Del Toro to continue down this path. Don’t get me wrong, I love Blade II and Pacific Rim, it’s just better to see Del Toro flex all of his artistic muscles.

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Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017) – image via Fox

The story follows a mute janitor played by Sally Hawkins. She’s ignored by the world and lives a life of routine. She’s also living in a mythical version of Cold War America and cleans a super-secret government facility. She finds moments of magic in her life though, whether it be in the cinema she lives above or her friendships with a closeted artist roommate and an equally repressed co-worker played by Octavia Spencer. Her life goes in a tizzy with the arrival of two monsters. One is a merman creature (Del Toro’s monster regular Doug Jones) who arrives at the facility for study. The other is a government agent played by Michael Shannon who abuses his privilege and power whenever possible. She falls in love with the merman in magical and life affirming ways. She even decides to bust him out of captivity along with Jenkins, Spencer, and a secret Russian spy with a heart of gold played by Michael Stuhlbarg. The creature brings magic to all of their lives and teaches them that they shouldn’t have to keep their true selves hidden. Unfortunately, there’s that other monster and since he’s played by Michael Shannon, it’s safe to assume that he won’t let happiness be the status quo.

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Doug Jones in The Shape of Water (2017) – image via Fox

Heavy and heady stuff to be sure. Del Toro is a lifelong monster geek who revels in the ways that monsters can serve as metaphors for outsiders. The Shape of Water plays like his purest example of that theme. All the characters other than the monster are burdened by something that defines them as outsiders and repressed by society. By helping the monster escape captivity, they all find themselves and their power. It’s a pretty obvious metaphor, but one that couldn’t be more timely and is told beautifully within a fairy tale horror story so romantic and thrilling that the vegetables go down smoothly.

The Shape of Water Review: Making A Monster Movie Romance
Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017) – image via Fox

It almost goes without saying that the film is beautifully made. That’s the Guillermo Del Toro way. Every set, costume, and shot is meticulously constructed for maximum import and impact. There are layers to everything, but the visceral entertainment rings true. The merman monster is a stunning technical achievement and heartbreaking outsider. The cold war setting ramps up the paranoia and intrigue at all times. Del Toro luxuriates in all the tools available to him in all the genres he mashes together. He even slips in a musical number and it works because the love story between the monster and the mute feels so earned and pure.

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Nigel Bennett and Michael Stuhlbarg in The Shape of Water (2017) – image via Fox

Performances are as universally impressive as the script and effects. Sally Hawkins is extraordinarily moving and empathetic despite not having a single line of dialogue at her disposal. Jenkins is equally moving and has the challenge of vocalizing all the movies themes in a way that sounds naturalistic. He pulls it off. Spencer and Stuhlbarg turn characters who could have been one note clichés into quirky and lovable support. Doug Jones finds warmth and personality beneath his mound of latex. And of course, Shannon is a force of nature as the villain. It takes a lot of skill to be a more intimidating and unpleasant screen presence in a film that features a scaly sea monster, but he does it with such ease and command that you can’t take your eyes off him. Within a film that’s so stylish, daring, creepy, and touching, somehow it’s also an effective character study with an impressive ensemble.

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Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)

The Shape of Water is a beautiful fable of the oppressed, an effective monster yarn, and one of the most beautifully unconventional love stories of the year all rolled into one. It almost feels like Del Toro’s ode to everything that he loves about life and cinema. The joy the filmmaker put into the work is infectious. Aside from the most cynical viewers, it’s hard to imagine anyone not being seduced and touched by this magnificent motion picture. It might be Guillermo Del Toro’s finest achievement and the uncertainty speaks only to the remarkable work that he’s done before. Easily one of the best films of the year. Don’t miss it if you have a heart and adore movie monsters (note: if you don’t share those traits, we’ll likely never be friends).

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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Logan - A Farewell to Two X-Men 4

Logan – A Farewell to Two X-Men

Back in the 1990s, there was no superhero more beloved than Wolverine. Thanks to the cartoon series, Jim Lee’s insanely popular X-Men run, some video games, and endless action figures, everyone adored the growling clawed anti-hero. It was likely the characters obscene popularity at the time that helped get the first X-Men movie off the ground in an era when Blade was the only successful Marvel movie. The search for an actor to play Wolverine was long and arduous. In the end, fans cried out, “who?” when Australian Hugh Jackman was announced as the heir to the adamantium, and cried foul when they learned his most successful previous role was headlining a revival of Oklahoma. Meanwhile, when Patrick Stewart was announced in the role of chrome dome X leader Charles Xavier, nerds everywhere rejoiced. Both ended up being ideal choices for the X-Men’s live action cinematic endeavours and this week both actors bid farewell to their iconic roles in the suitably sombre farewell picture Logan.

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Fox is making an action movie based on Stan Lee's life

Fox is planning an action movie based on Stan Lee’s life

According to The Hollywood Reporter, 20th Century Fox has purchased Stan Lee’s life rights, and is moving ahead with a film very loosely based on Lee’s life. “Loosely based” is the key phrase here — Fox is reportedly taking an unusual angle with the project.

Sources close to the Reporter indicate Fox will use the life rights to make a 1970s period action movie with Stan Lee as the main character. Tonally, the film will reportedly crib from the Roger Moore-era James Bond films and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Unless Lee had a past as a quippy secret agent that he’s kept secret until this moment, the film will be a fictional account. $5 says there’s a scene where somebody refers to a female secret agent as a “She-Hulk,” Lee’s eyes bug out, and he writes that down on a notepad or something. “I gotta save that for later!” he’ll say.

(Speaking of The Secret Service, fun fact: the Mark Millar comic on which Kingsman is based featured a similar cameo from Star Wars star Mark Hamill as himself. Hamill would later star in the film adaptation as Professor James Arnold, filling a similar role as his fictionalized self)

The film will reportedly be produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, of Temple Hill Entertainment. Bowen and Godfrey are primarily known for their work in the Young Adult scene, producing the Twilight and Maze Runner films, in addition to The Fault in Our Stars and the upcoming Power Rangers film. Stan Lee himself and POW! Entertainment CEO Gil Champion will executive produce the film. Currently, no other talent has been attached to the project.

Stan Lee is no stranger to film, nor to fictional versions of himself getting into larger-than-life scrapes. Several different versions of Lee have appeared before in Marvel Comics, and Lee’s well-publicized Marvel film cameos have historically been well-received by fans. The Hollywood Reporter published a retrospective of Lee’s comic cameos to go along with the report — including the obvious (Lee and Kirby are turned away at Reed Richards & Sue Storm’s wedding) and not-so-obvious (a negative caricature found in the pages of DC’s Mister Miracle)

Curiously, neither Marvel Studios nor Marvel’s parent company Disney are mentioned in the Hollywood Reporter’s story as alternates for the life rights. Although a hypothetical Disney-produced Stan Lee biopic would assuredly be less interesting than whatever this Fox project ends up being, it also seems like an easy home run — a Saving Mr Banks for the families who grew up around Spider-Man. It’s unclear if these life rights are exclusive to Fox, or if the door is open for Disney to produce a more traditional Stan Lee biopic.

In recent years, Lee has diversified his efforts, creating the story for the TV show Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and writing a digital graphic novel about the relationship between man and God, entitled God Woke.

Morgan (Movie) Review 1

Morgan (Movie) Review

What is it with movie scientists determined to play god and create life? Haven’t they seen a Frankenstein movie or read the book (or at least listened to the book on tape)? I mean, it’s a pretty simple moral dilemma: don’t do it. These stories never end well. So it comes as no particular surprise that the genetically engineered moody teen with creepy eyes in Morgan is indeed bad news. The movie is yet another run through these motions and one so strikingly similar to last year’s rather brilliant AI creation nightmare Ex Machina that it feels extra disappointing. You can’t help but be reminded of a better version of this story that you saw oh-so recently.

Kate Mara stars as a corporate risk assessor sent out to an isolated castle/science facility to take a peek at a new experiment gone wrong. That experiment is the titular Morgan, a bio engineered creepo creation (played rather wonderfully by The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy) that in five short years has shown remarkable physical and intellectual abilities, but just can’t hold it together emotionally. She moves and acts like a moody teen, with a childlike sense of innocence and unexpected explosions of violence. Her scientist creators (Toby Jones and Michelle Yeoh) speak of her like proud parents, while the psychologists monitoring her mind are mildly less enthused (especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is missing an eye following one of Morgan’s outbursts). Mara is too cold to be swayed by the scientists pride though. She knows something is up and you better believe that things will go horribly and bloodily wrong by the end of this thing. Especially after Paul Giamatti shows up to start prodding the girl with uncomfortable questions.

Morgan (Movie) Review 5First the good news: Morgan looks great. Luke Scott has clearly inherited the eye of his father Ridley and his uncle Tony. He’s even done some second unit directing on poppa bear’s most recent blockbusters, so the guy knows how to frame with style and atmosphere. There’s a palpable sense of unease from the first shot and the newest director from the Scott clan knows how to get under his audience’s skin while still crafting beautiful images. He also cast the movie quite well and there are some strong performances, particularly from Taylor-Joy who has a knack for other worldly innocence/malice, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who does moody innocence as well as anyone. The big stand off scene between Taylor-Joy and Giamatti is a damn good bit of work from all concerned, but unfortunately it’s the peak of the movie and comes far too early. All roads lead downhill and into predictability from there.
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The biggest trouble with Morgan is that the movie promises much more than it actually delivers. It wants to be think piece science fiction, but doesn’t have much to say. There’s also a big twist hanging over things that is far too easy to predict. Despite all of the pretty pictures, strong character actors, ideas, and atmosphere, Morgan is ultimately just a big dumb sci-fi/horror romp and not a particularly good one. Eventually it all falls into bloody stalk n’ slash nonsense. Scott always ensures that nonsense looks pretty and even sneaks in a couple decent scares, however, there’s no denying that it’s sad to watch this thing devolve into fairly cliché B-movie drivel. Sure there’s nothing wrong with B-movie drivel, just not in a movie that’s attempting to act like an A-level classy genre piece.

Morgan (Movie) Review 2Morgan probably could have been a decent little indie with ambition. As a medium budget studio picture populated by a sea of recognizable faces, it feels like a big ol’ missed opportunity. There’s so much more that could have been done with this concept and these resources, as evidenced by last year’s Ex-Machina, which did everything Morgan does better and actually had a few interesting things to say. Oh well. At least the movie isn’t completely horrible. The script might be a stinker, but it was brought to life by a director with promise and an overqualified cast. Viewed with the right level of lowered expectations, it’s a decent time waster that at least attempts to pretend it’s something more than that. Given that the film was released in that crap movie zone between the end of the summer blockbusters and the beginning of the fall prestige pictures, I suppose it’s a pleasant surprise. Morgan is not a particularly good movie, but then again this is a time of year when most movies are just straight up garbage. So it could be worse—which isn’t much, but at least it’s something.